David Green, head of maths at Shireland Collegiate Academy in Sandwell, West Midlands, wondered, like most teachers, about the value of hours spent marking books.
Seeking a more efficient, positive and supportive method of assessment - yet wanting to continue to convey his personal views - he came up with the idea of using YouTube to help students who have misunderstood key points. The scheme is now being piloted with Year 10.
Green seized on the fact that the same errors recur across the work of many students. What if each could be corrected just once for the whole group? His solution was to make an instructional video covering each significant misunderstanding.
"I flick through the first 10 or so books, and identify common mistakes. I then make explanatory videos, posting them to my own YouTube channel," he says.
He doesn't need to make many: three, for example, on the key misunderstandings in a topic on probability.
He then reads through all the class books, deciding which videos each student should log into and watch. He directs them with a spreadsheet on the school's learning gateway.
In each short video he shows his own solutions, talks through the method he used to reach them, points out potential problems and sets a follow-up example.
For any innovation, Green believes, context is all. Over the years Shireland Collegiate Academy has developed a strong culture of independent learning, self- and peer-assessment through the learning gateway and careful and lengthy feedback sessions.
These practices reduce the number of misunderstandings that make it into exercise books. They also ensure teacher input is absorbed and acted upon.
Green says there is a broader context, too. "This is part of a bigger discussion on making your marking policy a feedback policy. If you're obsessive about the marking, you're missing what the marking is for."
Tips from the scheme
Concentrate on the most important and frequent misunderstandings of students to achieve the best use of your time.
Deal with non-subject errors (such as spelling and grammar) by posting corrections and advice on your learning platform or gateway.
In the videos, use an exercise book or file similar to that used by students.
Make your video using a tablet or other device that allows easy upload to YouTube.
Direct students to spreadsheets where they will be told which video to watch. This should also emphasise that they are receiving individual feedback.
Evidence that it works?
This is a pilot project but Green has found that his marking time is reduced and notes that students pay more attention to corrections and advice. They also prefer the videos to written comments in books.
Approach: Using YouTube and the school's online learning gateway to improve feedback to students about their work and to reduce the marking load for teachers
Name: Shireland Collegiate Academy
Location: Sandwell, West Midlands
Intake: The school serves a richly multicultural and extremely deprived area. Measures of deprivation are well above average
Overall Ofsted rating: Outstanding.